Post-War Props Series, No.1

The Yak-9P

" Not unknown... not forgotten... and not Green!"

It seems always to be the same old thing... if one looks at any profile of post-War VVS piston-engined fighters, they are "green". Some kind of green colour... who knows which one? But, why so? Is it only because of the appearance of certain examples in modern museum collections? How odd that would be, if true. Can you image, for example, someone running off to Henden with a colour wheel and making profiles of Me 410s based on the museum's example? Lunacy....

So, perhaps it is high time to re-examine some of these old ideas. It is certainly true that post-War examples of many fighters were by far less colourful than their GPW cousins. So much is clear. But, they were also finished according to revised ideas in colouration; some would suggest that they were a throw-back to earlier ideas in colouration, in fact. During the 1930s the VVS mooted at length ideas about 'sky' camouflage. The best shades for these schemes were seen to be AEh-9 Grey and AII Aluminum, both of which were widely used on the I-16, I-153, and SB bomber. Is it a mere coincidence that the post-War colour AMT-16, and it's all-metal version A-36m (even more so), were quite similar to the paints AEh-8/-9 of the 1930's? Hmmm....

The Yak-9P In Production

Series manufacture of the Yak-9P version began during August-September 1946. The first examples of Series 1, about 29 machines, were completed with a wooden rear fuselage as on the Yak-9U. This was probably the case as the pre-production examples tested by the NII VVS ( 03-92, 01-04, 01-04) were found to have numerous structural problems, and these needed time to correct. The early Yak-9P did not feature the transparent cover for the RPKO radio, even when the SCh-3 aerial was installed. However, a mounting for the PAU-22 camera was common, this placed ahead of the cockpit to starboard, although this unit is not shown in any of the artwork here.

The typical Yak-9P of the early series was finished in the NKAP recommended livery of over-all grey lacquer. It appears that the usual varnish in use at Novosibirsk was the all-metal lacquer A-36m. Possibly AMT-16, the multi-use equivalent to A-36m, was seen occasionally, but the photographic record suggests that this was rare.
Yak-9P Production Number 01-12
At the Novosibirsk Factory 

September 1946

A-36m over-all colouration

This profile of aircraft number 12 of Series 1 shows the typical appearance of the machine after manufacture. The finish is over-all A-36m Grey, and national markings have been applied to the fuselage and wing lower surfaces. At Zavod 153 it was typical for the aircraft's abbreviated Production Number to be stenciled onto the fin/rudder. The various maintenance and service stencils are shown, and the full Production Number can be seen on the lower fin in red.

The usual Yak-9P, however, featured an all-metal structure. The more typical early examples were built in this way, even though they also did not exhibit the transparent cover over the radio-direction set.
Typical early manufacture Yak-9P
No national markings or identification shown

A-36m over-all colouration

Some photographs do exists which show Yak-9Ps of early manufacture in an AMT-11/-12/-7 scheme. The question arises, however, if this painting was accomplished at the factory or by various units (notably by PARMs) in the field. It can be said that, to date, the available factory records suggest that this finish was not used by Zavod 153 on the Yak-9P. It is also possible, however, that some machines might have been finished in this way before distribution to a service unit. There is a specific photograph to mention here (TsGANKh 11096/4113/98/del 23) which seems to show a line-up of such examples. They are all painted in an NKAP style AMT-11/-12/-7 scheme and lack identification markings of any sort. The location cannot be determined in the photograph, and no caption information exists for this picture.
Generic profile of AMT-11/-12/-7
finished early Yak-9P

It is also fascinating that several Polish and Yugoslav service Yak-9Ps have been photographed wearing this colouration. Whatever the factory's preferences, the AMT two-tone grey scheme was still very much in use during the latter 1940s.

Many examples of the Yak-9P featured a transparent cover over the RPKO radio set. This is not to say that all of the later models did so; but the fitment was common. It is noted, for example, in the Novosibirsk Production Diary that machines of Series 8 and 9 did not have such a cover. Also, many examples of Series 11 lacked it; no cause for this behaviour is evident in the available records.
Typical Yak-9P of 1947-48 production
No national markings or identification shown

A-36m over-all colouration

Thus, one can see that the usual factory livery was a rather boring single-colour application of A-36m Grey. The majority of Yak-9Ps served their days in this scheme, though it can be noted as well that many also received very colourful trim and other interesting visual devices in service.

Foreign Service

The Yak-9P was widely exported to a number of countries which had a relationship with the USSR. In Polish service, the Yak-9P was often the subject of considerable modification. Many examples had their VK-107 engines removed and replaced by an M-105PF-2 (or VK-105PF-2, if one prefers). This modification resulted in a significant change to the cowling, as the various intakes and ducting arrangement of the -9P could not easily be retained with the older motor. The solution was usually to make use of the upper cowling panel (and ducts) from a Yak-9U example, a fact which has resulted in considerable confusion to historians. The exhaust stacks of the -105 engine were also used, replacing those of the -107, and the propellor was usually the ViSH-105S series (or similar). A fair number of Polish Yak-9Ps also received additional armament in the form of two 20mm ShVAK cannon mounted in the wings just outboard the landing gear attachment. A number of these later were passed on to Bulgaria, who employed them well into the 1950s.

These rebuilt Polish examples are quite evident in the photographic record. Examples with the VK-107 appear to be finished in the usual factory scheme of A-36m. However, examples with the revised cowling and M-105 were usually comprehensively refinished in AMT-16. The various maintenance stencils were obliterated in this way, and sometimes Polish language replacements can be seen, and there was no clumsy over-painting of the national markings (as a result). The spinner was often left in A-36m, and this change in tone is evident (and a useful clue) on period photographs.
Yak-9P M-105PF-2 in Polish Service
"White 48", at Swiecie, ca. 1948

AMT-16 over-all colouration

Some of these examples also appear to have been finished in a two-tone scheme using AMT-11/-12, but the AMT-16 livery looks to have been by far more common. As well, virtually all Yak-9Ps in Polish service appear to have the transparent cover for the RPKO set, which is interesting.

The Yak-9P served also in North Korea, both prior to and during the Korean War. There are not a large number of available photographs of these aircraft, even though the written material available on this period indicates that they operated extensively in the attack role during the conflict. One such example is show in 1950, however, and this is the subject of a photograph in the possession of author S. Uskov.
Yak-9P in N. Korean service
"Red 36", ca. 1950

A-36m over-all colouration

The aircraft looks indeed to be finished in the factory applied scheme of over-all A-36m. Wear and grime are evident, and this suggests a service machine in operational use. The appearance of the various stencils cannot be seen in the image. KPDR national insignia (of the earlier pattern without 'gaps') are shown in four positions; the wing upper surfaces are not in view. A tactical number "36" was carried on the fin, this in red. There is currently a debate about whether this machine has a transparent cover on the fuselage; here it is shown without this item.

Another quite curious Yak-9P example is shown next. This aircraft was obtained by the USAF during 1951. It was test flown in Korea, and thereafter no further information exists as to its whereabouts. There is no record (of which I am aware) that this aircraft went to the USA, and it certainly was not received into the collection of NASM.
Yak-9P under examination by USAF
s/n "T2-3002", ca. 1951

A-36m over-all colouration

The aircraft looks to have retained mostly its original finish of A-36m. The US Air Force personnel added some specific 'USAF' type items, like an anti-skid strip to the port wing-root and anti-glare black paint over the upper cowling. USAF insignia look to be carried in the usual four positions. The wing undersurfaces seems to show the large letters "USAF" to port, but these appear curiously to have been applied "upside-down". The serial number "T2-3002" was painted on the fin/rudder. The lack of evidence of repainting is not remarkable in this case. It is true that the USAF finish 'Ghost Grey' is extremely similar to VVS A-36m, and on a photo of this quality the two finishes could not be distinguished even if present.

The Bulgarian Air Force continued to employ the Yak-9P for a considerable time into the 1950s. They look to have operated a collection of Yak-9s, including both ex-Polish -9Ps and more typical -9Ps with the VK-107. However, many Yak-9Ps in Bulgarian service were the subject of repainting, often significant and comprehensive work. For years many of the darker examples, such as the following, were depicted in a Black/Green livery similar to VVS aircraft of the GPW. However, I personally view this interpretation as exceedingly unlikely. In fact, I took up this question in detail with the late Igor Machinev, who was a mechanic in the Bulgarian AF during this period, and who worked for years at the Army Museum in Tirane.

During these discussions, I took with me a copy of several magazines, including Modelist Konstruktur issue 4/71. The colour profile in this issue (with the accompanying photo) was given in the usual Black/Green. Mr Machinev dismissed this interpretation at once, and I agreed with his view based on the photographic evidence. His own recollection of the colouration was described as "two dark grey colours which looked slightly green from a distance", and with undersurfaces "painted in a medium blue like Russian trucks". His observations were quite fascinating. In the first case, wherever could quantities of Black and Green paint come from? AMT-6 was the last Black finish of the period, and was out of production for years prior. A-24m Green was also discontinued by then, and was never used on fighter aircraft. AMT-4 was older still. It seems unlikely to me that the varnishes used were either of these colours.

However, his description matches extremely well a colouration made up of two contemporary lacquers which were used on fighter aircraft, AMT-12 and it's all-metal version A-32m. These two finishes were still in production, at least in 1951, and were widely available. The undersurface colour sounds very much like A-28m; the production details of which are unknown. At that time, I was not aware of any of these lacquers, and so for years this subject remained a mystery. It was only when I applied these three together based on newer research that any progress was realized.
Yak-9P in Bulgarian service
"White 45" at Turgovitshe, ca. 1952

estimated AMT-12/A-32m/AMT-7 finish

The resulting profile using these lacquers agrees with Machinev's description in every way. I am firmly of the opinion that this interpretation is the most likely to be correct.

"White 45" was photographed in service during 1952, and was based near Turgovitshe [Ed note: I apologize for the geographical incompetence, stating previously the capitol of Albania by accident]. This machine was powered by the VK-107, and carried a transparent cover for the RPKO radio set. Bulgarian national markings were carried in six positions, as shown. The tactical number "45" was rendered in white on the fuselage sides, and the spinner was white as well. The spinner carried a stripe which might have been red, but looking to the photo it seems to match the green colour of the insignia the best, and that is how I have drawn it here. The aircraft featured some grime and wear, indicating its service status.